The highlight of the club hurling year in Offaly will take place this Sunday at 3.30pm in Bord na Móna O’Connor Park when Coolderry and Kilcormac-Killoughey meet in the Molloy Environmental Systems Senior A hurling final. Kilcormac-Killoughey will defend the title they won last year in a 2-16 to 1-16 win over St Rynagh’s, while Coolderry were last crowned champions in 2015.
Both finalists carry impressive credentials into Sunday’s decider. Coolderry went through the group series unbeaten, topping the group, winning 4 and drawing 3 of their seven games. Kilcormac-Killoughey win four, drew once (with Coolderry) while they were twice defeated, to finish second and take the second automatic semi-final slot.
Kilcormac-Killoughey were dominant in their semi-final win over St Rynagh’s, though the win wasn’t confirmed until Thomas Geraghty’s additional time goal gave them a 1-16 to 1-11 win. Coolderry took an early lead in their semi-final against Belmont which they won 4-13 to 3-15, but in a game in which Martin Corcoran, Conor Molloy, Brian Carroll (penalty) and Eoghan Parlon all goaled, Belmont reduced their deficit to the minimum before time ran out on the west Offaly side.
Not surprisingly, Brian Carroll and Ciarán Slevin lead the scoring for their respective sides. Carroll has contributed 3-65 of the Coolderry men’s tally, while Slevin has hit 3-51 in another season of quality marksmanship. For Coolderry, Kevin Connolly has fired 4-22, and Cillian Kiely (2-15) and Thomas Geraghty (1-17) have scored freely for K-K.
Both sides are managed by former Offaly All-Ireland winners. Lusmagh native Joachim Kelly, a 1981 and 1985 All-Ireland winner, is in his first year at the helm in Coolderry, where he is assisted by Mick Murray, Dessie Teehan and Séamus Kennedy. Stephen Byrne, Offaly’s goalkeeper in the 1998 All-Ireland win, is in his second season in charge of his native club, and is joined on the management team by John Leahy, Dónal Rigney and Tommy Bracken. Kevin Connolly and Conor Slevin are the respective captains who will lead their teams onto the field on Sunday.
Though Sunday’s finalists have shared seven of the last eight Senior championships between them, this will be their first meeting in a final in the modern era. (For one point – can you name the champions in the ‘missing’ year? Answer: St Rynagh’s in 2016). Indeed, neither Coolderry or Kilcormac-Killoughey have lost a final during this decade. Coolderry’s most recent final defeat was in the replayed 2006 Final to Birr; Kilcormac-Killoughey last tasted final defeat to Tullamore in 2009. So one impressive record is guaranteed to fall.
Their last meeting in a championship decider was in 1914’s Final when Coolderry defeated the Killoughey side of the parish. In the early years of the Association, Coolderry also had wins over Killoughey in 1901 and 1910, while they also beat Kilcormac in the Final of 1905. In all, Coolderry have been champions on 30 occasions, while Kilcormac-Killoughey seek their fifth title (all since 2012) to add to the three won by Killoughey back in the early years.
Coolderry and Kilcormac-Killoughey met in the first round, back on Easter Saturday in a match that ended on level terms. On that occasion, Kevin Connolly’s 11th minute goal put Coolderry into the lead, before late first-half points by Ciarán Slevin, Cillian Kiely, James Gorman and Thomas Geraghty gave K-K a 0-11 to 1-7 half-time lead. Later, with the sides level, Brian Carroll’s 58th minute free put Coolderry into the lead and Ciarán Slevin’s injury time point restored parity.
The winning captain will be presented with the Seán Robbins cup, and the winners will represent Offaly in the Leinster championship, the first round of which will be against the Carlow champions on Sunday 4th November.
The senior A Final will be preceded by the Junior A Final between Shinrone and Tullamore. Shinrone, who top the Junior A roll of honour, seek a record ninth title at the grade. Tullamore, meanwhile, are bidding to bridge a gap that extends back as far as 1930 to the time of their last Junior win.
Tullamore defeated Kilcormac-Killoughey 1-14 to 0-12 in the semi-final, a game in which Cody Hensey scored 1-3. Shinrone, meanwhile, reached the final with a 0-17 to 1-10 semi-final win over Kinnitty in which Michael Cordial scored 0-8. And when these sides met in the group, a draw was the outcome, Tullamore’s 0-10 matching Shinrone’s 1-7 at O’Brien Park. The winning captain will be presented with the James Clarke cup.